googleglassesIf you’re one of the anointed few who has been given the opportunity to try Google Glass, you might want to avoid wearing them behind the wheel.

Cecilia Abadie, a member of the Google Glass Explorer program, was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol this weekend for going 75 miles an hour in a 65 zone. While she doesn’t dispute speeding, Abadie didn’t expect to receive a a separate citation: a ticket for wearing her Google Glass unit while driving.


So, what does this mean for people outside California? Washington law has language similar to the applicable California law in RCW 46.37.490, which reads:

(1) No person shall drive any motor vehicle equipped with any television viewer, screen, or other means of visually receiving a television broadcast when the moving images are visible to the driver while operating the motor vehicle on a public road, except for live video of the motor vehicle backing up. This subsection does not apply to law enforcement vehicles communicating with mobile computer networks.

Under that statute, if you get pulled over by a member of the state police, it’s possible that they could cite you for wearing Glass. That said, because of the size of Google’s Explorer program, wearing Glass while driving doesn’t seem to be a huge issue around the state, at least not yet. photo photo

“As far as I know, we haven’t come across (someone wearing Glass while driving),” Sgt. Sean Whitcomb of the Seattle Police Department said in an interview.

While Glass hasn’t become an issue for the SPD just yet, Whitcomb says he hopes Glass users exercise common sense behind the wheel.

“It’s just common sense, you probably shouldn’t wear something that distracts you, interferes with your eyes while driving, right?” he said.

Google, for its part, issued a fairly bland response to the citation.

“As we make clear in our help center, Explorers should always use Glass responsibly and put their safety and the safety of others first,” a Google spokesman said in an email. “More broadly, Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it. It’s early days for Glass and we look forward to hearing feedback from Explorers and others in advance of a wider consumer launch next year.”

In its Glass FAQ, the company makes clear that wearing the device while driving might run afoul of local laws, and that Explorers should check with their local DMV about whether or not wearing Glass while driving is kosher in their jurisdictions. It’s not clear yet whether the company plans to advocate for Explorers’ ability to use Glass behind the wheel.


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  • Christopher Budd

    Really? You really didn’t think that using any device that visually distracts in some way while driving is wrong?

    I find the utter cluelessness here more problematic than the deed itself. Like Sgt. Whitcomb said, it’s just common sense.

    Of course, this shows again that there’s nothing so uncommon as common sense.

    • Zachary Cohn

      The bigger argument from the Glass community is that it’s not distracting or obscuring vision.

      The “killer app” for the product right now is definitely maps/navigation, specifically BECAUSE it’s so much safer/less distracting than using a phone for navigation. Flicking your eyes up and to the right to check the map is no different than flicking your eyes up and to the right to check the rear view mirror.

      • Christopher Budd

        I see your point but disagree that it’s not a distraction. It’s still a visual distraction even if it’s less of one than looking over at a phone.

        I would argue the right answer to the scenario you outlined would be to have the voice navigation on and eliminate the visual distraction altogether.

        Like I say, my beef here isn’t so much with the deed as with the failure to accurately assess and appreciate the risks. If this person had said “yes, I know it’s a visual distraction, I know it was wrong” that would be one thing. But to believe that there’s nothing wrong, there’s no risk here is very problematic. It tells me that this person doesn’t have adequate respect for cars and what they can do or the responsibility of driving.

        • Forrest Corbett

          If it’s legal to take your eyes off the road to look at a navigation screen on the dashboard, why would you say it should be illegal to look at navigation HUD which allows the driver to keep looking at the road?

          • Christopher Budd

            Good questions. A couple of things.

            1. I’m not an expert on law around driving but I’m pretty sure that if you’re in an accident while looking at a navigation screen, you will be at fault and cited for being distracted.

            2. Google Glass isn’t a single use device. If a cop sees you using Google Glass there’s no way for them to know that you’ve got an ostensibly “low distraction” navigation program or you’re watching videos on YouTube.

            I’d also say there’s a difference between a navigation screen that you can look at and look away from and something that’s constantly in your field of vision.

    • Mark Illing

      I think this is the same mentality that many have regarding texting and driving. It is a false sense that this is a very short term distraction. The reality is that the easier it is to look at the information, the easier it is for the distraction to consume more visual and cognitive load than is safe while the user has the false sense that they haven’t taken their eyes off the road.

      • Christopher Budd

        I completely agree. And excellent point on how the ease of looking fuels a false sense of security.

      • Out For Justice

        I disagree completely. It is like a heads up display in a jet fighter. The display is designed to enhance the performance of the pilot.

    • Out For Justice

      To much government control… …Google glass could be very useful for enhancing the safety of driving (deer approaching in 50 feet, watch out for that car backing up, etc.). And who are you to say that I should be denied that freedom.

  • Timothy Ellis

    Hmm, the way that RCW is written makes it sound like using a GPS device or GPS app on your phone is illegal.

  • Guest

    Unacceptable. California, tear up this ticket!

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